Many of the terms associated with improving manufacturing processes sound like you need a PhD just to understand them: Six Sigma, kaizen, lean, just-in-time, and build-to-order. But the concept behind these terms is pretty simple: eliminate waste where ever you find it, whether it’s in materials, operations, administration, purchasing or shipping. Eliminating waste, among other things, improves efficiencies.
Lean, in particular, can be very easy to implement. For example, one global contract manufacturer asked for employee input on improving operational efficiencies. Workers on the factory floor figured out that they could reduce the time it takes to change the factory floor layout by replacing heavy, hard-to-move workbenches with sleek tables, made of light metal tubing, with casters for easy mobility. The movable benches help workers quickly reorganize the factory floor to meet changing demands.
This company implemented lean by:
• Defining the value of work performed as something for which customers will pay
• Mapping process steps performed throughout the supply chain to identify those that add value and eliminate those that create waste
• Eliminating the primary source of waste-overproduction—by producing only what customers want, when they want it
• Removing other major sources of waste-excess inventory and downtime—by ensuring that goods flow continuously throughout the supply chain
• Striving for total elimination of waste through a succession of small, action-oriented continuous improvement events with workers who carry out production steps
No PhD required.